DirecTV Stream and DirecTV might sound the same and do share a number of similarities, but there are a number of differences between the two services. These differences are not accidental, but specifically designed to target different consumers. Put simply, regardless of how someone would like to pay for and access live TV, DirecTV has them covered.
DirecTV Stream might be a new name, but the service itself has been around for some time. First launched as DirecTV Now in 2016, the live TV streaming service went on to become AT&T TV Now before merging with AT&T TV only to finally settle on the DirecTV Stream name. In contrast, DirecTV has always been the same service that many consumers will already be familiar with.
DirecTV Stream and DirecTV are designed to be two sides of the same coin. As DirecTV puts it, a ‘beam it or stream it’ approach to live TV and this is easily one of the simplest ways to tell the difference. For those that want a traditional live TV package, DirecTV could be the answer. For those that want more of a modern streaming live TV experience, there’s DirecTV Stream. However, this overview difference results in many smaller variations that a consumer should be aware of before signing up to either service.
Same plans, but different channels
When it comes to the channels, things can get a little confusing. The reason for this is that both services offer the same four plans, but a different number of channels with each version of the same plan. For example, regardless of whether signing up to DirecTV or DirecTV Stream, consumers can choose between the Entertainment, Choice, Ultimate, and Premier plans.
Even though the plans go by the same names, the DirecTV versions are far more robust. To provide an example, the Premium plan through DirecTV Stream comes with more than 140 channels while the Premium plan through DirecTV is packed with no less than 330 channels. The same applies to the other three plans as well, with DirecTV versions typically coming with around twice as many channels as the DirecTV Stream versions. Due to this difference alone, if the number of channels matter more than anything else, DirecTV is likely to be a better option overall.
Consumers will also see differences with some features as well. For example, while DirecTV comes with 200 hours of DVR storage at no additional cost, DirecTV Stream customers only get 20 hours. In fairness, DirecTV Stream subscribers can upgrade to an unlimited cloud DVR, but they will have to pay an additional $10 each month on top of the cost of the live TV subscription.
DirecTV Stream doesn’t require a contract
Arguably, one of the most fundamental and important differences between the two services is that DirecTV Stream is a no-contract solution. Consumers simply sign up, pay for the month ahead and start watching live TV. If they no longer want the service, they can cancel at any time and won’t have to pay any fees. In contrast, DirecTV requires consumers to sign up to a two-year contract. As they are locked in to the service for the next two years, they may encounter fees if wanting to cancel early.
It is worth taking a moment to discuss price increases as this does affect subscribers of both services. Live TV streaming services like DirecTV Stream have encountered multiple price increases over the years and it is never clear when the next one is coming. As there is no contract beyond the current month, any price increase that is implemented is likely to apply to existing subscribers no matter what price was agreed when singing up. As DirecTV is contract-based and subscribers are locked to a plan, the price won’t suddenly increase. However, all of the DirecTV plans come with the caveat that their prices will automatically increase in the second year of service.
Contracts and pricing aside, the differences between the two services also extend to their approach to hardware. As DirecTV is a ‘beam it’ service, a dish is required to be installed at the user’s home. In addition, DirecTV subscribers will also be provided with a Genie HD DVR receiver box for accessing live TV and recordings, although they can also stream live TV through the DIRECTV app on a smartphone or tablet when needed. For comparison, DirecTV Stream subscribers don’t have to worry about any specific hardware or installations. The company does actually sell a ‘DirecTV Stream Device’ streaming player that can be used to access the service. However, DirecTV Stream is also available on a variety of other supported devices, including smart TVs, streaming players, and mobile devices. This means many consumers will simply be able to download an app on some of the devices they already have in their home.
DirecTV Stream vs DirecTV summary
DirecTV Stream and DirecTV both provide access to live TV but are not competing services. DirecTV is designed to offer a traditional live TV package which comes with a greater number of channels, but requires additional hardware and a two-year commitment. In contrast, DirecTV Stream is designed to provide an online-only live TV experience and this means no additional hardware is needed, and the subscriber is free to cancel their subscription whenever they want. The DirecTV Stream packages do come with fewer channels overall, and consumers will end up paying additional add-on charges for some upgrades that come free with their DirecTV counterparts.
As for which service is best? That depends highly on the needs of the consumer. Those wanting maximum flexibility with the fewest commitments will want to consider DirecTV Stream. While those tired of dealing with missing channels and looking for a more traditional approach to live TV, including a long-term contract, will want to consider DirecTV.